Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 Review
When the original Dave Mirra struck the Playstation last year, it was a well-received BMX title that had a lot going for it. Anticipating to compete against Activision's Tony Hawk powered Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX title, and THQ's somewhat promising looking T.J. Lavin title, Dave Mirra sadly turned out to be the only BMX title of 2000. Not too long after came the reigning king of Extreme Sports, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. Shattering sales records, and stealing the time of millions of gamers nationwide, once again the Hawk-ster had sucked us into his trap of addiction. But in the midst of the Hawk's hype, Acclaim was very happy with the active sales of Dave Mirra, as the game made its way up the charts showing some very good sales. Acclaim later followed up with a semi-sequel of the game this past March, subtitled "Remix." The game did moderately well with the critics, as it was claimed to be more of the same. But then word had broken out before the Summer's open that Acclaim and Z-Axis are currently in the middle of developing Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 for the PS2, and that it would be released sometime during the end of Summer. Impressing countless gamers with screens of vast stages in the game, Dave Mirra 2 is poised to do one thing; take away Tony's crown. Well for the time being, it seems that Dave Mirra 2 is the current holder of the crown.
Generally, the first of opening levels for games such as Tony Hawk 1 and 2, Grind Session and SSX seem to be quite small, and lack in the exploration factor, but Dave Mirra 2 plays it otherwise. Instead of giving you a particle of soil to work with, Dave Mirra's first course is planetary in size, I'll tell you that much. The amount of navigation seems infinite in many ways. There is a magnitude of hangars filled with ramps, pools, rails and whatnot. Outdoors, there are skate parks fitted with much of the same, but in a different fashion. The amount of things to do is one course feels limitless; the boundaries can only be described as a blur, as they seem to be non-existent. That was describing the enormity of only the first course. The second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on courses are just as big, some bigger! Can you imagine that? I really do applaud the Z-Axis team, as they have managed to utilize the PS2's hardware the way it is meant to be utilized. The texture detail is very good; the bikes look incredibly nice and solid. The backgrounds are surreal, every skate park's objects are well defined, and the buildings especially give off a more realistic atmosphere, which adds a lot more to the visuals and the extreme feel of the game. Although there resides a problem with the textures, when standing still next to a building and panning the camera around, to the very right or left you may see some disturbance of the textures which creates a look of them melting, but that's only when you stand still and it is unnoticeable when moving.
Perhaps what strikes the eye initially is how fluid everything is one screen. I don't think I've seen an extreme sports title move as fluidly as Dave Mirra 2, not even SSX. The frame rate in DM2 is a perfect 60, and you won't see anything less. In grace of the frame rate, DM2's camera presentation moves just as fluidly as everything else. The camera can be changed from wide to behind for preference, but aside from that I should also mention the perfectly animated moves. The Z-Axis team has done a wonderful job in replicating every BMX stunt imaginable, flairs, nac-nacs, backflips, candy-bars, truck-drivers and etc. In total, there are over 1,500 tricks. The biker detail is on the spot; every biker's face can be seen (because they don't wear helmets, which you ALL should). The facial detail is very good and makes every rider look almost photo realistic. Not to mention that the SDS (Skeletal Dynamics System) has been improved further upon as well, so if you ram into a fence and it sends the biker hurling forward, you will notice the biker grab on to the fence and avoid rough contact with the asphalt. That can be the case in various other instances of bailing, very cool if you ask me. Within most of the environments are moving objects such as other BMX riders, trains, ships, cars, trucks, people and more. As I said, Dave Mirra 2's environmental complexity is almost never ending, infinite if you will. With the visual integrity of Dave Mirra 2 as boastful as it is, one only wonders how Tony Hawk 3 will fare in comparison.
Playing incredibly smoothly at all times; Dave Mirra, like many other good extreme sports titles, becomes instantly addictive. As soon as the game opens up, you are greeted with an FMV intro of the 14-featured pro-bikers doing what they do best. After that's through with, the main menu will show and you will be able to choose from various modes: Career, free-run, single-ride, two-player, create-a-rider and create-a-park mode. The way I look at it, the only thing this game is missing is future compatibility for online gameplay with an upgrade patch of some sort. Let me start off from the top; first of all you know what to expect from the career mode, a series of events that will take you through whatever number of parks this game has to offer (8 huge ones!). But the career mode requires you to complete roughly 15 events per course, ranging from beginner level, advanced level, and then hardcore. Some events may seem almost impossible to do, but one must realize that it may seem so due to the lack of stats. By completing as many possible events throughout every course that is available in your progress, you will gradually unlock a new bike that will help you accomplish those tougher hardcore challenges, such as a 700ft grind (sick, I know!). The title itself is incredibly challenging, but that's what keeps me coming back, as it will be the same for you.
Interacting with other bikers in a course was also a smart move on Z-Axis' part. As you bike around whatever course you have selected, you will see other bikers such as Tim Mirra, Ryan Nyqist, and Mike Laird grinding, jumping and wall riding. Coming up to them will get you in contact with them, the bikers are actually the ones that contain secret challenges, if you approach the correct biker he will reveal a secret challenge, if not then the biker will tell you where to find the necessary biker (boy I'm confused...). Dave Mirra 2 Freestyle BMX contains 8 enormous stages, as I have already mentioned in the visuals section. Some of the stages include Woodward Camp (a bikers paradise), Highway 47 (explanatory), Train Yard (duh!), Devil's Peak (a canyon full of fun), and Commercial District (city). The two-player mode consists 10 different multi-player games; this is definitely something party gamers want to consider looking into! DM2 can prove itself to be an extremely fun game with two-players. Not to mention the gamer is overwhelmed with modes such as Create-a-Rider and Create-a-Park, something that Tony Hawk 3 will feature when it is released this November. Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 is an unbelievably joyous title to play and the 'extreme' atmosphere is perfectly presented. What game can you grind on a pole that links one hangar to another?! It's awesome folks! The game is great in every single regard; it's deep, challenging, and best of all addictive. Extreme sports fans, you must get Dave Mirra 2!
I'm still amazed at the streak of superb soundtracks in today's videogames. In my Extreme G3 review I boasted about the game's first-class techno remix soundtrack, and mentioned how well it fit in with the game in general. Much of the same can be said for Dave Mirra 2. The soundtrack consists of 12 songs ranging from Rage Against Machine, to A Tribe Called Quest, all the way to The Cult, and their smash hit "She Steals the Sanctuary." In addition, Sum-41 has been featured in yet another game (this makes three: MX 2002, ESPN X-Games Skateboarding, and Dave Mirra 2) making them the most widely publicized band in the videogaming world. They of course contribute "No Difference" (also from MX 2002), and the summer smash "Fat Lip." Though I have a problem with the variety of tracks, granted the genres are diverse, but most of the songs are too short (still great though) which makes the order go by quicker, eventually creating the repetitive effect. Nevertheless I love the soundtrack. The mellow and yet engaging tune of Sublime's "Doin' Time" and the hard rock sound of Ozzy's "Paranoid" is what makes this soundtrack incredibly good.
The familiarity of the controls is a huge plus. By that I mean the controls play out similarly to those found in the Pro Skater titles. Manipulating the BMX bike is absolutely no problem, and pulling off stunts is cake. Although, during a few instances you will find yourself kissing the ground because you have mistimed your landing. That occurs because of a camera problem, so I suggest changing the camera to 'behind' view so it feels more Tony Hawk-esque. What I enjoyed about grinding in DM2 is that when your leaning heavily on one particular side, instead of bailing and losing your accumulated points, the rider jumps off the railing or whatever edge of the platform. But of course you are able to control the balance of the rider during a grind, so don't get the wrong impression. The analog is incredibly sensitive in the game, but my preference of control for extreme sports has and will most likely be digital. I find digital to be more comfortable in the extreme titles and it makes landing tricks easier. Overall, I find the controls to be very favorable and hassle free.
In the end, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2 is indeed one hella' sweet extreme sports game. Z-Axis has done a fine job at creating the first BMX title on the PS2. Dave Mirra 2 only lacks one trait, and that's future online gameplay, but it makes up for it with the overwhelming amount of gameplay modes such as ten VS games, a huge career mode, create-a-park, and create-a-biker mode. On top of that, the 8 enormous stages create an almost never-ending atmosphere of extreme sports. The soundtrack, the visuals, the gameplay in general make Dave Mirra 2 stand out among many extreme sports titles, and can truly raise its head in honor right next to SSX. Extreme sports fans, get Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, you'll love this game and the way it plays so fluidly, almost as if you were watching a televised event.
9/15/2001 Arnold Katayev